Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Editor Bill Morphy and the usual cast of contributors including Jordan Moss, Ted Tait, Peter Hucul, Glen and Bill Myles, Ian MacPhee, Howard Steiss, Dave Kittle and Rob Wagner. This week, the Jays go into scramble mode after whiffing on Ohtani. And we ask the question, why are there no Canucks on the Canucks?
Shohei Goes to Hollywood – Well, let’s all take a deep breath. Now that the Shohei Show is finally over and the move to Dodger Town has been confirmed, you can’t help but think the Blue Jays were ‘played’ all along. The air certainly went out of the balloon in a hurry despite days of heightened optimism. The news cycle frenzy included private jet flight tracking had the entire country abuzz.
We may never know how close Ohtani was to signing in Toronto. Skeptics will contend that Ohtani’s camp just used the Jays to up the ante. Maybe it was just a case of getting outbid. Ten years and $700 million is a massive investment and one heavy-duty risk for a guy who won’t pitch next season and only DH. There are major deferrals in the deal for tax reasons but still, the $70 million per season is more than the current payroll of eight major league teams. Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette did the math. It works out to nearly $8,000 an hour – 24 hours a day every day of the year.
There were so many factors that made the Dodgers the favourites. Ohtani already had a home in L.A. and don’t underscore his loyalty to Japanese fans who have had a long attachment to the Dodgers. Moving to Toronto only further distanced Ohtani from his native Japan. It hurts because it would have been such a ground-shifting transaction and such a win for Canada.
Make no mistake, being left at the altar leaves the Jays as more than bridesmaids. The organization may never recover from the feeling of being spurned. Jumping into the Shohei Sweepstakes was a dangerous play in the first place. The Jays are now left to deal with the aftermath. While the Jays were fishing for Ohtani, the Yankees signed slugger Juan Soto. How do you suddenly pivot and try to fill as many as four spots in the lineup? Good luck.
The disconnect between Jays fans and the current front office group is only further exacerbated by the developments this weekend. They need to repair more than just the stadium. Expect the social media shrapnel from acrimonious fans to be ugly. Can’t help but wonder whether the lights have gone out on the once-promising Vladdy and Bo championship dream.
Editor’s Note: In case you are wondering, the Dodgers visit Toronto April 26-28. It will be interesting to see the fans response.
Canucks Notebook – Canuck fans are well aware of the organization’s long-time infatuation (and success) with Swedish players. You know the names. It’s a pipeline that goes back decades. What is alarming today is the team’s cupboard is almost barren when it comes to Canadian-born players.
Only four Canadians – Mark Friedman, Carson Soucey, Noah Juulsen and Phil DiGiuseppe – have appeared in a Canucks uniform this year. Only Soucey would be considered a solid regular. This is America’s team with no less than ten U.S.-born players in the lineup. The Canucks have more Russians and Swedes on the roster than Canadians. Their best prospects are either Swedish – Tom Willander and Jonathan Lekkerimaki, or American – Hunter Brzustewicz.
The lack of Canadian content is only further evidenced when you look at the other Canadian franchises. The Montreal Canadiens lead the way with 18 Canadian-born players. The Edmonton Oilers are close behind with 17. The Toronto Maple Leafs have 14. The Winnipeg Jets have 10 while Ottawa and Calgary both have 9.
Building a lineup with so few Canadians was obviously not deliberate but c’mon, as a fan, this is unfathomable in a hockey-mad Canadian market. Not to mention the passion and grit supplied by Canadian players.
After holding off the Carolina Hurricanes last night, the Canucks are now 15-0 this season when leading after two periods. That’s the sign of a solid hockey club. It’s also a sign that the Canucks have a much deeper roster.
NHL Notebook – The NHL projects the salary cap to jump to $87.7 million next season, an increase of $4.2 million dollars. It will be the largest increase in five years. For the Canucks and other cap-strapped teams, it’s welcome news. Unfortunately, a good chunk of the increase will be eaten up by the Oliver Ekman-Larsson buy-out. The cap hit next year is $2,346.667. It jumps the following two years to $4,776.667 before falling back to $2,126.667 for the final two years through the 2028-2029 season.
Seems we were on to something when we suggested it’s good to be bald if you are looking for a coaching job in the NHL. We mentioned Rick Tocchet, John Hynes and Jim Montgomery but upon further review, the list doesn’t stop there. Calgary’s Ryan Huska, Washington’s Spencer Carbery, Derek Lalonde of the Red Wings, Arizona’s Andre Tourigny and Pascal Vincent of the Columbus Blue Jackets are also members of the All-Chrome Dome coaching team. New Jersey’s Lindy Ruff and Dallas’s Peter DeBoer are on the Nearly-Bald team. There are several bald assistant coaches as well including the Canucks Mike Yeo and the Leafs Manny Malhotra. Seems hair is optional if you aspire to be an NHL coach.
The season has not gone according to plan for the Ottawa Senators but they are smart to continue adding to their front office. Jacques Martin is the most successful coach in the team’s history and it can’t hurt having him around as another set of eyes. Owner Michael Andlauer is using the same script as the Montreal Canadiens when they cleaned house a couple of years ago. The Sens hockey operations department was far too lean and desperately needed additions.
One reason for optimism in Montreal is the Canadiens salary cap ledger is looking very promising in the next few years. The new front office has done a great job shedding contracts left behind by Marc Bergevin. The Habs will have Carey Price on LTIR for two more seasons at $10.5 million. Nothing can be done there. Only two bad contracts remain. Brendan Gallagher and Josh Anderson both have three years remaining on their deals – Gallagher at $6.5 million and Anderson at $5.5 million. Anderson just broke a 27-game scoring drought by scoring his first goal of the season into the empty net. His last goal back in March of last season also came into the empty net. Anderson is Montreal’s answer to Jake Virtanen. Big body. Skates great. Terrible hockey IQ. Can’t put the puck in the ocean.
If you project down the road, the Canadiens will have a lot of opportunity to take on contract, either to bolster their current roster or to weaponize their salary cap. The Canadiens should be open for business again this year at the trade deadline. There should be some level of interest in veterans Sean Monahan, Tanner Pearson and goalie Jake Allen. Anderson will certainly be available if Montreal is willing to retain salary.
The L.A. Kings are hitting on all cylinders. The Kings finally had their ten-game road winning streak stopped last night. They have the highest goals-per-game scoring average. The Kings play a heavy game and you know how that works come playoff time. We will see how their goaltending holds up over the course of the season. Not convinced Cam Talbot is the answer.
The Columbus Blue Jackets look like they will be bottom-feeders for a while. Patrik Laine’s career continues to flounder. He’s on the books for $8.7 million for another two years. He’s has only five goals and two assists in 16 games and is minus-9. Hard to think there’s any market for him right now. The best path might be to just ride out the next two seasons because any deal would require significant salary retention.
The Winnipeg Jets made the right move in buying out former captain Blake Wheeler last summer. The buyout is costing the Jets $2.75 million this year and next but he would have been a dead weight on the roster. Wheeler was picked up by the New York Rangers for the NHL minimum but has failed to produce despite getting top six minutes. Wheeler has only 2 goals and 8 assists in 25 games.
Let the goals pour in. The Maple Leafs should be very concerned with the high ankle sprain suffered by goalie Joseph Woll that would keep him out of the lineup for several weeks. Ilya Samsonov and Martin Jones are left to carry the load. They may be digging a lot of pucks out of the net. Samsonov’s shutout against the offensively-challenged Nashville Predators notwithstanding.
It only took until December 2 for Max Domi to score his first goal of the season. Not much for $3 million. The nostalgic Leafs were insistent on bringing Domi back home to Toronto. They overlooked the fact he’s now on his seventh team in nine seasons. There’s a reason he’s moved around so much.
It’s the story that never ends. Yes, the Arizona Coyotes are again working on a new land deal in the Phoenix area. They are trying to finalize the purchase by the end of January so they can start construction on a new arena. We’ve heard this song before. Wouldn’t it be nice to put it to rest?
Seahawks Central – The Seahawks face another huge test today when they square off with the 49’ers in San Francisco. The Hawks have dropped three in a row to fall to 6-6. They have never lost four in a row during the Pete Caroll era.
The Seahawks seem to have no answers defensively. In the Thursday night game in Dallas, the Cowboys controlled the clock for 37 minutes and put up 33 first downs. What will the 49’ers do? After dismantling the Eagles in Philadelphia, the Niners look like a runaway train. The only thing that may prevent them from winning the Super Bowl is injuries.
In January, the Seahawks gifted kicker Jason Myers with a new, four-year contract worth over $21 million, making him one of the highest-paid kickers in the NFL. At an average of $5.275 million, Myers makes more than any kicker in the NFL on a per-year basis other than Baltimore’s Justin Tucker. Myers cap hit next season will be $6,075,000.
Myers has rewarded the Seahawks by being wildly erratic. He sits 29th out of 32 qualified kickers in field goal percentage. NFL kickers are hitting field goals of 50+ yards at a rate of 71%. Myers is at .500 for the year. He missed what would have been a game winning 50+ yard field goal against the Rams. Once again, the Seahawks look like they have overspent on a position that normally should not cost a whole lot.
With the Seahawks in such a tight cap squeeze heading into next season, you may be surprised as some of the names who may be released in order to open up cap space. Tyler Lockett will be 32. His numbers are way down this season and he carries a cap hit of $26,795,000 in each of the next two seasons. Dre’Mont Jones has not had an impact after receiving a huge free agent contract in the off-season. Do you cut your losses and move on? His cap hit jumps from $10,056,666 in 2023 to $18,176,666 in 2024 and up to $23,176,668 in 2025. Cutting Jones would save $5 million which could be used to re-sign Leonard Williams who’s been far more effective since coming over from the New York Giants. How about the pricey safety duo of Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs? No way you can continue to pay top dollars to the two veterans who have had little impact. Can you find an answer at quarterback in the draft and move on from Geno Smith? Time for some tough decisions in Seattle. Why dish out so much money for so little return?
NFL Notebook – NFL officiating is at a crisis point. The game last Sunday night between the Chiefs and Packers in Green Bay was decided by a missed interference call in the final minute that would have given the Chiefs a first down inside the Packers 10-yard line with a chance to tie the game. Prior to that, the roughing penalty on Green Bay after a solid hit on Pat Mahomes was highly suspect.
The officiating in the Thursday night Seahawks-Cowboys game was atrocious. Al Michaels had the best line in describing the work of referee Clete Blakeman and the officiating crew – “We’re going to take the rest of the night off and let Clete Blakeman call the game.” Blakeman’s bunch called 19 penalties for 257 yards. The Hawks had 10 for 130. They missed a face mask on Zach Charbonnet at the end of the third quarter that should have been an automatic first down. The pass interference call on Tariq Woolen in the fourth quarter was marginal at best. The Seahawks secondary had six coverage penalties alone. Seattle continues to lead the league in penalties by a healthy margin.
Playing quarterback in the NFL is a dangerous profession. Seven top quarterbacks have already been sidelined for the remainder of the season. The list includes Joe Burrow, Kirk Cousins, Daniel Jones, Kenny Pickett, Anthony Richardson, Aaron Rodgers, and Deshaun Watson. If Trevor Lawrence can’t make it back after a high ankle sprain on Monday night, you make make it eight.
With the shortage of top-flight quarterbacks in the NFL, it’s a mystery why Nathan Rourke has twice cleared waivers. With the injury to Lawrence, the Oakville native has been added to Jacksonville’s active roster. Hopefully he gets a chance to play. Rourke’s brother Kurtis just finished four years at Ohio University but has been granted one more year of college eligibility. He has entered the transfer portal and has had several offers including BYU. Kurtis will have to decide whether to play one more year or turn pro. Don’t be surprised if, like brother Nathan, he decides to start his career in the CFL.
All the names being bandied about as potential NFL MVP’s are quarterbacks. The list includes Jalen Hurts, Dak Prescott, Brock Purdy, Pat Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. Even rookie C.J. Stroud has been in the conversation. It’s a mystery why 49’ers running back Christian McCaffrey and Miami receiver Tyreek Hill are not betting more attention.
McCaffrey leads the league in rushing by nearly 200 yards. Against the Eagles, he had 20 touches for 133 yards and a touchdown. That’s just a regular day at the office for McCaffrey. He missed 22 games in his final two seasons in Carolina but has yet to miss a game since coming over to San Francisco. In 25 games with the Niners, McCaffrey has 2,920 yards rushing/receiving with 30 touchdowns. How is this guy not an MVP candidate? Purdy, meanwhile, has been a revelation. Since replacing Jimmy Garoppolo, Purdy has appeared in 21 games including playoffs and has a passer rating of 114.1, tops on the NFL.
Tyreek Hill is taking dead aim at the all-time NFL single-season receiving record held by Calvin ‘Megatron’ Johnson of the Detroit Lions. The record is 1,964 yards. Hill is currently sitting at 1,481 yards with five games remaining. He’s averaging 123.4 yards per game. If he can go above 2,000 yards in 16 games, it would break Johnson’s record in the same number of games as Johnson played in the 2012 season and it would have to be considered the greatest season ever by a receiver. That’s what it will probably take to get Hill some MVP love.
There’s bad and then there’s the Patriots and the Jets, two of the worst offenses in NFL history. The Jets have scored four offensive touchdowns in their last 88 drives. New England scored a total of 47 points during a recent five-game losing streak. The Dolphins racked up 45 points last Sunday against Washington and scored five touchdowns on nine drives. Basically outdoing the Jets and Pats in one game.
We’re going to find out a lot about the Dallas Cowboys over the next four weeks. The win against Seattle was the Cowboys first against a team over .500. Dallas plays host to the Eagles on Sunday night, then play at Buffalo, at Miami before returning home to face the Detroit Lions.
Here’s a great stat for you. The Green Bay Packers are 16-0 in the month of December over the past five years since Matt LaFleur took over. The Pack have the youngest team in the NFL and a cream-puff schedule the rest of the way. Don’t be surprised if they grab a playoff spot and it may be at the expense of the Seahawks.
Texans rookie QB C.J. Stroud had “Free Pops” etched on his cleats last Sunday as part of the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” weekend. His father, Coleridge Stroud III is currently serving a 38-year sentence in California for multiple felonies. In 2015, he pled guilty to charges of hijacking, kidnapping, robbery and sexual battery in connection with a drug-related incident that ended when the elder Stroud jumped into San Diego Bay in an attempt to evade police. Pops is not eligible for parole until 2040.
As things stand right now, the Chicago Bears may have two picks in the top four of next year’s NFL Draft including the top selection compliments of the Carolina Panthers. A year, ago, the Bears hired former Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren to oversee the organization as CEO/president. He’s been quietly assessing the state of the franchise and may choose to clean house at the end of the season. That would include moving on from quarterback Justin Fields, GM Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus. Long-suffering Bears fan may finally have some reason for optimism.
MLB Winter Meetings – Word is the Dodgers plan to make Mookie Betts their everyday second baseman next season. That would open the door for a certain Japanese star to eventually play some right field. Betts is a Gold Glove calibre outfielder but he spent almost as much time in the infield last season as the outfield. Mookie played 62 games at second and 77 in right field. He also had 12 starts at short.
We will see how everything works out for the Dodgers. The Ohtani blockbuster will put them heavily into the luxury tax but we doubt that concerns the free-spending Dodgers. With Mookie, Ohtani and Freddie Freemen at the top of the order, the lineup will pack a formidable punch. The future is certainly now since Betts is 31, Freeman is 34 and Ohtani will turn 30 in July.
What’s going on with the Seattle Mariners? A lot of people are questioning their commitment to winning. The Mariners balked at bidding on Ohtani despite the fact Ohtani spends time in Seattle and his agent, Nez Balelo of Creative Artists Agency, has ties to the Mariners organization. And there’s history there considering the Hall of Fame career of Ichiro Suzuki.
You wonder what’s happening because the Mariners have been conducting a payroll purge. They saved $42 million in future salary by dealing third baseman Eugenio Suarez to Arizona. They saved another $20 million by declining a qualifying offer to Teoscar Hernandez and then, offloaded another large chunk of money by dealing Jarred Kelenic, Marco Gonzales and Evan White to the Atlanta Braves. The Mariners desperately need offense yet showed no interest in Juan Soto.
As of today, the Mariners 2024 payroll currently stands at only $115 million. Their payroll last season was about $140 million which placed them 18th in MLB. Their attendance was 10th so its fair to question whether the organization, who finally broke a 21-year playoff drought in 2022, is truly committed to building a championship team.
The Dollar Train – Professional golf is in a sad place. Those are not our words. That’s a quote this week from Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes who added, “The direction golf is headed right now isn’t healthy or good for the sport. Interestingly enough, Hughes’ comments came before Jon Rahm signed a megadeal with LIV Golf that’s reported to be worth over $300 million. Hughes couldn’t have been more on the mark when he added that “LIV has overvalued the worth of golfers so much that it has ruined our perspective, and pushed purses to unsustainable levels. The marketplace seems broken.”
Where is all this is leading? The players are fractured into two camps. The PGA Tour and LIV Golf are reportedly working on a partnership but will it ever happen? There’s apparently a December 31 deadline to reach a deal. TSN’s Bob Weeks observed the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF) may just be flexing its financial muscle and forcing the PGA Tour into an agreement.
As for Rahm, despite what the numbers end up being, he decided to take the money and run. Loyalty to the PGA Tour and the morality of dealing with the Saudis went out the window a long time ago. Rahm’s presence on the LIV Tour is unlikely to change anything. Without a major TV deal, no one is watching. The crowds are a joke. Raham may not care. He’s exempt in the four majors for the next five years. He can just sit back and count his greenbacks until and a deal is struck.
Leftovers – The Toronto Raptors are already three games under .500 and are facing a heavy upcoming road schedule. It’s looking like they are headed to a fork in the road and need to decide which way to turn. Do you commit to a rebuild with Scottie Barnes as the centerpiece or do you keep the status quo? If you wanted to blow it up, Pascal Siakam and O.G. Anunoby would be a pretty good place to start.
The bracket is almost set for Euro 2024 in Germany. Three playoff spots are still up for grabs. Germany will be looking to become the first host to win the European championship since France in 1984. Of the six groupings, it looks like Group B is the toughest with Spain, Italy, Croatia and Albania. Defending champion Italy may have trouble advancing out of the group stage.
You just can’t find good help anymore. How about the Jacksonville Jaguars employee who’s now facing jail time after bilking the organization out of more than $22 million? Amit Patel was a senior financial officer who exploited the team’s virtual credit card program. Seems he had a bit of a gambling problem and was syphoning money in order to place sports bets through numerous online gambling sites. If that wasn’t enough, Patel also purchased a condo in Ponte Vedra, Florida, a new Tesla sedan and Nissan pickup truck plus sports memorabilia, electronics, home furnishings, luxury wrist watches, concert and sports tickets and a country club membership. He chartered private jets and booked luxury hotels for junkets with friends. Memo to Jags owner Shad Khan. You might want to pay a little more attention to your team’s finances.
And finally, don’t forget to put tickets to the big Lions-RedBlacks game at Royal Athletic Park on your Christmas wish list. This kind of entertainment doesn’t come around often.
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